I have so much to tell.......I don't however, want to give you a day by day step by step account or you may end up as exhausted as I was by the end of the trip.....so, here's the start of the highlights (and believe me there were plenty of those!)
Kyoto - how do you start to describe this beautiful city - so full of character, so full of life, so full of history...... perhaps pictorally is the best way to do it, so beware photo laden post coming up.
Kyoto was busy, no hotels room to be had in the city, cherry blossom beginning to peak, attracting visitors from all over Japan and all over the world....we joined the throng.
Night time cherry blossom viewing at the Kiyomizu-dera Temple....a miracle of ancient engineering, the main hall's veranda towering on nailess stilts, above the garden offers views across Kyoto. According to my guidebook "to jump off Kiyomizu's stage" is the equivalent of "to take the plunge".
Geiko (Child of the Arts) - knowledge and skill in traditional arts such as shamisen, the tea ceremony and dance, traditional costumes with maiko wearing under kimono's with embroidered collars, long hanging obi and tall koppori clogs. Much of the fun of touring the geisha enclaves of Kyoto is trying to spot one.
Gion - the famous entertainment enclave in Kyoto, full of tea-houses where geisha entertain their clients, including the famous ochre coloured ochaya (teahouse), Ichiriki.
Fushimi Inari Shrine - avenues of torii gates leading to the shinto (Inari being the God of Rice) shrine that sits atop a hill on the edge of Kyoto, their vermilion red gates number in their thousands, sponsored by local businesses and the stone foxes, the messengers of Inari. We wandered through the gates for over an hour and didn't reach the hilltop shrine, but there was just to much else still to see and do in Kyoto to stay any longer!
Kinkaku-ji - The Golden Pavillion - this ancient pavillion, covered in gold leaf, is it turns out not so ancient. Burned to the ground by a priest jealous of its beauty in 1950, so the story goes, the original building is therefore history. The reconstruction does however, remain breathtaking - the sheer beauty of the temple sitting in glorious gardens - a classic of Muromachi-period garden design.